Douglas Khoo, serial entrepreneur and angel investor, has been keeping busy these days.
After co-founding and exiting a number of Internet businesses including Qunar.com and Shawei.com, which were acquired by Baidu and Lee Ka-shing’s Tom.com respectively, he’s now been spending a lot of his time building up the Penang ecosystem.
His latest project is the city’s newest coding school and social enterprise, ‘The Coding Shophouse,’ which was spawned to build up the technical talent pool in Penang and plug it back into the Malaysian ecosystem.
“It’s a key issue that I’ve seen as an angel investor, I’ve spoken to a lot of startups and they feel there are not enough coders in Malaysia. We are farming programming jobs out to Indonesia and Vietnam and outsourcing development to those countries.”
Although they’re just one batch in, The Coding Shophouse has already successfully graduated all 15 students from a Ruby on Rails-focussed programme and they’re almost all interested in doing their own startup. Ahead of their next cohort, Khoo said they must build a pool of committed instructors to run the courses and mentor students. The next programme will be more structured and focus on a new programming language.
On top of that, there have been a number of Internet companies in Penang already interested in accepting intern developers from the Coding Shophouse, telling Khoo: “We’ll take as many as you can produce.”
He also revealed that if the coding school fares well in Penang, the next step would be to bring the concept to smaller cities in Malaysia that need the support.
As the Malaysian ecosystem is centered around KL, Khoo decided to lend his expertise to building up Penang. “It’s very nascent now, there are too many things happening in KL. I chose Penang because it has a heritage of tech and IT infrastructure. It’s smaller, so it’s a great place to test out whether things work or don’t work,” Khoo told e27.
Although Khoo attests to a surge of startups in Penang, many of which are under the radar — he said it’s still lacking resources such as mentors, accelerators and academies like MaGIC to grow the ecosystem. Besides the coding school, Khoo has also been thinking about running an accelerator program in Penang sometime in the future.
Besides his work in Penang, Khoo is still actively angel investing in a number of startups in Singapore and Malaysia and has added seven companies to his portfolio this year.